Talking Olympics infographics with Jan Schwochow (plus check out the Olympics issue of IN GRAPHICS)

The stunning visual work of IN GRAPHICS creates that unique humbling, inspiring feeling that makes us all want to be better storytellers. This “magazine for visual people” out of Berlin, Germany has raked in the awards and accolades. But to hold a copy is to embrace the craft of printing and experience the skill and touch of visual storytelling at its best. The magazine comes out twice a year and focuses on timely issues on a series of spreads. Read more here. Editor and Publisher Jan Schwochow took a few minutes to talk with SND about the new Olympics issue.

Tell us a little more about the Olympic issue of IN GRAPHICS. What inspired it? How did you go about putting it together? Would you be able to provide maybe a sentence of explanation on each graphic?

IN GRAPHICS is published twice a year and we make graphics about the things that are very important during that time. So the Olympic Games topic was very close to the publishing date and it was clear that this would be our next cover story. In the magazine we try to tell a story spread over seven double pages. Every page is connected to a timeline about all 30 Games that have taken place. We start with a graphic about the first ancient games in greece. To have the biggest contrast the next two pages with fat 3D graphics show the new Olympic Stadium in London. Then we come to an overview about the Olympic park. We don’t want to bore the reader with other graphics he will expect. Our magazine should surprise the reader sometimes and so we updated some graphics we have produced four years ago. We selected some of the type of sports that have a funny aspect to explain some records.

After we show 3D graphics and vector illos it’s time now for some diagrams on the last two double spreads. We end with the economic aspect of the games and so we have a transition to the next heavy story in the magazine, the euro crisis.

There is a rich history of Olympic infographics stretching around the world. Given that legacy, what inspired you in the creation of the graphics in this issue?

Of course there are many graphics all around the world. We like to look at other graphics and get inspired by them. But when we start a graphic in our agency we try to start at zero, because one of my important rules in making graphics is: never trust another graphic. Most important for us is the research and if we find interesting data or floorplans we will see how we can put it on a page and how can we find a nice way to tell a story. Sometimes there is a way to combine data with other information that have nothing to do with the Olympic Games. So you can come to a new approach.

I see a few examples of using stadium diagrams. I believe there have been stadium graphics for almost as long as there have been stadiums. What twists and approaches did you take to the examples from this issue?

The stadium of such a sports event is the heart of it all. I think you have to show it anytime and when you have such great research material with very detailed floorplans we have to rebuild this stadium. And I like cutaways in any form. No other design type is better than an infographic. You can cut the building at any place you want, tell a story of one part of the building and show what is going on inside and outside.

Any unique or unexpected Olympic data or story ideas you have for SND members?

I think our cover is a nice idea to look for other aspects of the Games. We do not like the fact that the Games never took place in Africa. The big sport events today are a big money-making machine and I think we have to overthink sometimes what we do here in Europe.

What’s your favorite Olympic event?

Oh, I like every kind of sports except the ones with horses and synchronised swimming. The athletic sports are of course the interesting competitions I like to see.

You and your team create such wonderful work, can you tell SND members a little more about IN GRAPHICS and how they can get copies if they wish?

It’s so easy, IN GRAPHICS is for everyone that like to look at graphics instead of long text and several pictures. We have exciting topics for young and old people, men and women, we have topics about politics, economics, science, technology, sports, leisure, culture and entertainment.

Everything is possible and sometimes we only have a nice idea. I think it is part of everyone’s dream to do a piece of infographic work by your own and on your own way to tell a story. We also feature external graphic artists in the magazine. In Vol. 4 Nigel Holmes, Helen Gruber and Carsten Nicolai (a great german minimal artist) did some graphics for us.

I think telling stories with graphics is one of the best jobs on earth. Graphics have a big power to explain people complex subjects and sometimes we are able to change the readers opinion. Anyway, it is big fun and a big passion for me and my employees and I don’t tell a secret that it is a lot of work.

Everybody can support this hard work when you buy these elaborate magazines.

You can buy it via our homepage or amazon (europe). Soon we will start with a subscription, so that would be the best way receive the copies.

About Jonathon Berlin

is graphics editor of the Chicago Tribune and a past president of the Society For News Design.


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